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Green Belt… Is The End Nigh?

Green belt is a contentious issue in the planning world and so, by implication, in the property world too. It’s often held up as one of the reasons for the housing shortage and, as a result, the level of property prices – issues which have both advantages and disadvantages for the property investor.

When it comes to green belt, governments, politicians and local authorities often find themselves between a rock and two hard places: They are duty bound to find sites for new development. Often there is lots of green belt land which, almost by definition, is in places where people want to live. But many of their constituents and residents are vehemently opposed to its development.

In the past, green belt land has generally always been sacrosanct. But a recent decision by Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell could mean that more green belt will take a step closer to being developed. In this report we will take a look at the future of green belt in the light of this decision.

First of all, let’s clarify what green belt actually is. Green belt is not solely a policy for keeping things ‘green’ but one for regulating urban growth by preventing one settlement expanding into another. The concept was first introduced in the Town & Country Planning Act 1947. From 1955 onwards the then Government actively encouraged local authorities to introduce green belts. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) of 2012 underpins the latest definition of green belt, and is key in the current status of green belt land: It stresses a general policy against inappropriate development in the green belt, unless very special circumstances can be demonstrated to show that the benefits of the development will outweigh the disadvantages.

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